If you exercise regularly, eat healthy, avoid cigarettes and spend time with the ones you love - great! Keep up and share the good work - make your healthy lifestyle infectious!

However, some of you ask: "What can I do to begin to feel better? Do I have to take up exercise, change my diet or take pills? How can I make meaningful lifestyle changes?" And if you are one of these individuals who are contemplating or having trouble changing your lifestyle, this article is for you.

A lot can be said about one's lifestyle. Defined as: "The typical way of life of an individual, group, culture," lifestyle is closely related to the traditions and customs of one's environment. Each person is a product of their environment and is steeped in the individual, group, cultural, and (fill in the blank) traditions. Changing your lifestyle can be a struggle - as the traditions and customs are often the hardest and the last facets of one's environment to change.

But don't despair - it is possible to emancipate yourself from your current lifestyle!

While most providers have either given up or don't spend enough time on counseling people to change their lifestyle, in my office, lifestyle modification is the first line therapy. For my patients, the journey to better health begins on the first visit with my evaluation of their current lifestyle and their level of commitment to making changes. From my experience, I find that there are many gentle and effective ways to make lifestyle changes. I would like to share three specific techniques that I utilize.

I find that encouraging the addition of healthy lifestyle options instead of elimination of poor life choices works really well. For example, if one unwinds at the end of the day by watching TV, they don't have to stop watching TV. Instead, I recommend that they can walk on the treadmill while they enjoy their favorite TV show. Sound too simple? Been there, done that? Then keep reading!

In my experience, uncoupling one's lifestyle from family traditions and customs opens people up to healthier variations of traditional or customary life choices. Once the individual is aware that being a typical member of a particular group or culture and subscribing to a certain lifestyle are mutually exclusive, it becomes easier to bring about change. For example, I recommend healthier variations of the traditional family recipes - using fresh, organic, and local ingredients instead of the canned, packaged or processed staples. Not improvement enough? Keep scrolling!

I am an advocate of test-driving a new lifestyle. You wouldn't buy a car without first taking it on a road test - I can't expect that you would change your life choices without a trial. Usually a four week change in diet, activities, and leisure results in positive side-effects including weight reduction, increased energy, and better focus. As a result, patients have no hesitations about adapting permanent lifestyle changes.

These techniques have helped my patients on their journey to better health. I strongly believe that you one change her lifestyle and change her world!

Here are some examples of lifestyle changes that I recommend
to my patients:

  • Avoid cigarettes and chewing tobacco
  • Consume alcohol in moderation (if at all)
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes per day 5-7 days a week
  • Use seatbelts, bike helmets and child car seats
  • Do not drink and drive; and do not let your friends and family behind
    the wheel drunk
  • Recycle, reuse, donate; do not litter
  • Do not use plastic water bottles; invest in a reusable stainless steel or glass water bottle and a filtration system for the kitchen sink.
  • Do not engage in unsafe sex
  • Do not use non-stick teflon cookware; invest in pyrex, cast iron, stainless steel or ceramic cookware
  • Eat a whole foods diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and
    cold water fish
  • Eliminate trans fats from your diet; reduce consumption of foods high
    in saturated fats
  • Buy organic and local produce to avoid pesticides
  • Use natural cleaners and laundry detergents in lieu of harsh chemicals
  • Wear protective clothing and/or sunscreen when spending > 20 minutes
    in the sun
  • Spend time with family, friends and significant others; play and laugh often

Sources: Abramson, John. Overdosed America: the Broken Promise of American Medicine. Harper Collins Publishers, January 2008.